13 Ways: Someone Like You
Posted on January 7th, 2012
It was your Grandfather Harold who came up with the idea of using robotics for more than human stand-ins at work, and it was his team that made the big leap from “robot” to “android.” (As I think you understand, while it is true that all androids are robots, the reverse does not hold true – all robots are not androids.) Modern androids, to any but those who are intimate with them, are usually taken for humans; but the robots built by Robotics International up until forty years ago never could have been. They looked like the machines that they were.
Your Grandfather imagined that, with enough attention to the details of their appearance, their movements, their communication, their thinking and … yes … even their feelings, the androids they built could become a part of humanity – a separate but equal species, so to speak. As part of that “separate but equal” ideal, they would of course be given more advanced anatomical systems, to become more than machines but still somewhat less than human. These improvements included functions such as digestion, breathing and sexual intercourse. The one thing they could never do, of course, is reproduce the way that humans do, but that was easily managed in the lab, after all.
Oh my goodness! You should have heard your Great Grandfather when Harold tried to tell him about his idea. I have never heard anyone explode like that before or since. You see, he thought it unethical. He thought that the robots should remain quite distinct from humans, and that to push too far towards humanness was somehow heretical (an odd thought for a nonreligious man, but so it was). Also, his sole purpose in creating his robots was that they serve people as impeccable and efficient workers, in a variety contexts. What made him happiest was the creation of the Carer Robot, who looked after the sick and disabled. Harold Sr. did not wish to frighten or confuse people regarding robot versus human distinctions.
Well, my dear, your Grandfather Harold pretended to relent to his father, but what he did, secretly, was open a separate stream of the business, give it its own name – “Someone Like You” – and incorporate the business under his partners’ names. These partners were hand-picked by Harold from the best of RI’s staff, and they shared his vision of what they might accomplish, once out from under Harold Sr.’s restrictions. These men and women spent two decades developing and refining their work.
Your Great Grandfather was in his grave by the time the first Companion Humanoid was ready to introduce to the world. From there, it was only a matter of a few years until the Humanoids were so elegant, so perfectly true to form, that one could no longer easily distinguish between them and us.
This was a realisation of your Grandfather’s biggest dream in the Robotics realm, Helen, and I was so proud of him. And yet, it was funny. As hard as he’d worked, as much as he had achieved, he did not want to be known for it, even when it was safe for him to step into the spotlight. He had become accustomed to the idea of being the silent partner, you see, and he found that there were advantages to it.